Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


Finding Ourselves in Time: Time Intervals as Cultural Artefacts and Their Role in Narrative Memory

Chris Sinha (Centre for Cognitive Semiotics)

[slides (PDF)]

In this talk, I will draw upon my and my colleagues’ research on time intervals in Amondawa, an indigenous language and culture of Amazonia. We researched two Amondawa time interval systems based on natural environmental events (seasons and days), as well as the Amondawa system for categorizing lifespan time (“age”).  Amondawa time intervals are exclusively Event-based, as opposed to Time-based (i.e. they are based on Event-duration, rather than measured abstract time units). Amondawa has no lexicalized abstract concept of time, and no practices of time reckoning, as conventionally understood in the anthropological literature.

We concluded from our research that the abstract conceptual domain of time is not a human cognitive universal, but a cultural historical construction, semiotically mediated by symbolic and cultural-cognitive artefacts for time reckoning. In this talk, I explore the consequences of this research for our understanding of subjective time-orientation and narrative memory.

  • Silva Sinha, V., Sinha, C., Sampaio, W. & Zinken, J. (2012) Event-based time intervals in an Amazonian culture. In Filipović, L. & Jaszczolt, K. (eds.) Space and Time in Languages and Cultures II: Language, Culture, and Cognition (Human Cognitive Processing Series 37) (pp. 15-35). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Sinha, C. (2011) A life without time. New Scientist, 212(2833): 47 (8 October).
  • Sinha, C., da Silva Sinha, V., Zinken, J. & Sampaio, W. (2011) When Time is not Space: The social and linguistic construction of time intervals and temporal event relations in an Amazonian culture. Language and Cognition, 3(1): 137-169.